Asian telcos, investors can't get enough mobile tower deals

Asia's mania for mobile tower sales continues, with both telcos and investors keen to strike deals.

Two more transactions have been completed in the past three weeks, a third is close to completion and two more are in the pipeline (see Asia-Pac telcos ready $6B in tower sales).

In the largest deal, Singtel-backed Australia Tower Network (ATN) joined with pension fund AustralianSuper to buy Axicom, one of Australia's biggest tower companies, for A$3.58 billion (US$2.7 billion).

Investors love Asian mobile towers, and telcos can't wait to sell them.
 (Source: Pixabay)
Investors love Asian mobile towers, and telcos can't wait to sell them.
(Source: Pixabay)

The acquisition follows AustralianSuper's acquisition of 70% of ATN from Singtel last November. Singtel now holds an 18% stake in the combined ATN/Axicom business, with AustralianSuper owning 82%.

Axicom owns 2,000 tower sites across Australia, mostly in urban and suburban locations, taking the total operated by the new entity to around 4,300.

In Japan, NTT DoCoMo has reached agreement with JTower on the sale and leaseback of around 6,000 mobile towers.

DoCoMo said that the 106.2 billion yen ($842.9 million) transaction would help streamline its network operations and enable more infrastructure sharing, aiding the government's goal of speeding up the national 5G rollout.

Emerging frontrunners

Two Malaysian tower specialists, Edgepoint and edotco, have emerged as the frontrunners for PLDT's tower sites, Bloomberg reports.

The Philippines telco has put 6,000 mobile masts, or around half of its tower assets, on the sale block in a bid to cut debt.

Edgepoint, headed by former edotco CEO Suresh Sidhu and backed by Digital Bridge, and edotco, 62% owned by the Axiata Group, are negotiating over two separate tranches of 3,000 sites each.

The deal, which is also expected to be a sale and leaseback arrangement, could be worth as much as $1.5 billion.

Edotco has just completed a 750 billion rupiah ($52 million) deal to acquire 1,000 towers from Indonesian affiliate XL Axiata.

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In New Zealand, Spark, the biggest mobile player, has confirmed that it is seeking to sell off 1,263 of its 1,500 towers. It announced Monday that it had tapped local investment firm Forsyth Barr and Jarden to manage the sale process.

Spark is following the Telstra model in setting up a dedicated subsidiary for its tower assets ahead of a potential sale.

Vodafone NZ is also seeking to offload its towers, said to be worth around NZ$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion). The New Zealand government pension fund and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan are reported to be weighing a joint bid.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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